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May 23, 2013

I Hraet You (59)

Beat 59: For Want of a Nail (Gun)

“I wonder if ‘being held at gunpoint’ is going to be the trend of the day.”  Nevertheless,  Lloyd held up his hands and offered a disarming smile.   “Pondering aside, let me be the first to say there’s no need for violence, Arjuna.  We’re both more than capable of talking this out.  Lay down your arms, and I’ll gladly prove I’m no reason to brandish a crossbow.”  He took a step forward, and --

Ka-SWISH-GRESSIVE NEGOTIATIONS!

An arrow whizzed by Lloyd’s ear before he could even bring down his foot.  “…Okay, I can see you’re more than a bit serious about puncturing my brain,” he said, leaping back two feet, “but I’d really prefer if you didn’t.  I like my skull the way it is, you see.”  He pulled his foot away, and took another step back just to be safe.  “See?  I’m no danger to you.”

“D-don’t screw with me, Lloyd!  I know you!”  Arjuna started to take aim, though Lloyd wondered if he’d manage another warning shot with such a shaky grip.  “I know you’re trouble -- especially now!  Especially since you’re here!  Especially if you’re near me!”

Lloyd could only (try to) smile, hoping that it’d help disarm Arjuna.  It didn’t, of course.  If anything, he looked more and more eager to pull the trigger, his eyes bulging and knees knocking.  A part of him doubted that his crossbow -- a small mishmash of plastic, duct tape, poorly-sawed wood, and even bits of cardboard -- could fire a lethal bolt.  Then again, considering that Arjuna’s first shot still hung from the wall, Lloyd didn’t have much reason to doubt his handiwork at the moment.

“The culprit always returns to the scene of the crime,” said Arjuna.  “Always.  And here you are, ready to make a mess of things all over again!  Ready to hurt me, I bet!  Oh man, look at you and those murderous eyes!  I bet you’re about ready to jump on top of me and strangle the life out of me!  Do you know how much that would suck?  I’m fragile!  Weak!  I like my neck!”

“I’ve no desire to mount or strangle you.  I just want to talk, and ask for your aid.”

“Screw you!  I KNOW what happens next!  I agree to help you, and the next thing I know I’m strung up by my toes and getting smacked around like a sandbag!  Well I can tell you right now that that’s NOT happening!”  He backed himself into a corner and pulled a camper’s knapsack closer to him.  “I-I’ll have you know that I’m armed to the teeth!  You don’t want to see what I’ve got in store for anyone who tries to mess with me!”

Lloyd raised his eyebrows.  “Oh!  Actually, I do!  I’ve always admired your craftsmanship -- what wonders have you brought with you today?”

“Wonders of your doom, Lloyd!  Wonders of your doom!” 

“Is it awesome doom, at least?”

Arjuna tried to bare his fangs, but he looked more like a happy Chihuahua.  “Y-you just take one more step and find out!” he shouted.  He ducked down and started digging through his bag.  “Or better yet, just stand right there!  I’ve got just the tool of survival for you!  I think.  I hope.  I wish.  Oh man, please let me have my pocket chainsaw on hand.  That’ll show him!  That’ll beat him!  That’ll save me!”

“Just go ahead and take your time, I guess,” said Lloyd.  “I’m nothing if not patient.”  He looked to the rest of the student council.  “Was he always this…er, excitable?  Or is it just the threat of splattered brains that’s colored my perception?”

One of the guys in the front slammed his head on the desk.  “Yeah, he’s always like this.  We’ve been here since before the sun came up, and he’s just now getting to the actual meeting.”  He glared at Lloyd.  “And then you had to go and scare him again.  Thanks for that.  Not like we had to spend two hours telling him we’d cleaned out all the spiders in the room.”

Lloyd couldn’t help but notice a pair of the creepy crawlies on the ceiling, but decided to keep that to himself for the moment.  He pretty much had to; he’d just taken notice of the girl standing in the back of the room, staring and pointing at the spiders and snorting to herself.  Naturally, Lloyd found her much more interesting than any spiders -- she was tall enough to look him right in the eye, and might have even had a centimeter or two on him.  He took quick note of her above-average bust, and the rest of her form followed suit -- nowhere near thick, of course, but between those hefty hips and rounded thighs, he figured she wasn’t wanting for a meal.

But Lloyd could (with some difficulty) set her measurements aside for the moment; she looked as if she’d fought a hobo, a nine-year-old, and an eighties starlet for her ensemble.  A too-small tanktop clung to her form, with one strap hanging off her shoulder, and leaving her midriff fully exposed.  On top of that she had a half-shredded T-shirt, bearing some abstract depiction of a kids playing jump rope in gaudy shades of red and pink.  A pair of too-small track shorts clung to her hips, with more than a few tears to show for it; in stark contrast she’d taken on a pair of ruffled, mismatched socks, and the remains of a few pink leg warmers clung to her ankles (a distraction from her decaying tennis shoes, no doubt). 

Lloyd couldn’t help but tilt his head a bit as he stared at her.  And to his surprise, she looked back at him.  Her skin tone reminded him of Lien-Hua, but managed to make his teacher look like she’d just gotten a tan.  Long, sienna-hued locks ran down past her shoulder blades, but more than a few of them shot out in other directions.  And those eyes -- Lloyd couldn’t even see a hint of a shine in them, eyes so black that they might have absorbed light instead of reflected them.  But somehow, he knew that she didn’t mind them; the curvature of them worked with and even enhanced her smile.

Lloyd smiled back at her, and her smile stretched and shone a bit more.  But only for a moment; she froze, and gasped, eyes wide and finger thrust at Lloyd.  Without another sound she ran through the room and shoved past him, and darted into the hall at top speed. 

Well, that was odd.  Lloyd scratched at his temple.  And I’m pretty sure that was the most plot-relevant character yet.  I’d assume that letting her run wild was…probably not the best idea.  Maybe I should give chase and --

Ka-THUNDER-BUST-A-ZAP!

“Hngahdgahdgahdgah!”  The voltage sent Lloyd tumbling without a fight; he crashed against the floor, convulsing and throwing his limbs like a dying spider.  The cause?  Arjuna, wearing rubber gloves and holding what could arguably be called an electric toothbrush...one fused with a Tesla coil, at least.

“That’s what you get for underestimating me, you no-good troublemaker!” he shouted, though he still looked ready to burst into tears.  “Now just get out of here and -- and go do whatever it is troublemakers like to do with their free time.  Except hurt me!  That’d be a not-good thing to do!”  He turned to his left and raised his arms to rally the rest of the council.  “Y-you all saw it!  He was an animal, a madman!  He came towards me first; I only acted in self-defense.  You’re all my witnesses, right?”

A few groans came from the council.

“Good enough.”  Arjuna pressed his thumb into the switch on the toothbrush, and voltage started to crackle around its minty-fresh bristles.  “All right, Lloyd!  This is your last chance -- better get outta here now, or else I’ll be forced to give you a real taste of --”

Lloyd sat up and started smoothing his hair back into order.  “Huh.  I had no idea you could build so much voltage from such a tiny item.  Truly, your skills precede your reputation.”

Arjuna leapt back.  “The hell?!  How are you even conscious?”

“Hmmm.  Hard to say exactly.  I’d assume it was because you held back too much with your offense; on the other hand, I’ve met the business end of a Taser more than a few times in the past.”  He dusted off his chest.  “I suppose I have a fair bit of tolerance to electric offenses.”  He climbed to his feet, forcing Arjuna to start reeling and stumbling.  “Now then.  Regarding our business together -- I was hoping that you could lend me a hand with something.”

“Not a chance!  No chance!  Zero chance!  I don’t want anything to do with you, ever -- and if that means turning you into a fried catfish, then…then I’m gonna do it!”  He cranked up the voltage on his toothbrush, turning what was once a lollipop of lightning into a verifiable club.  Of course, said toothbrush couldn’t handle the power for long, and with a pained whirr it started to smoke and shake.  In a moment’s time, it turned into little more than the tackiest toothbrush ever approved by four out of five mad scientists.

“Now can we talk?”

Arjuna didn’t bother with a response; he just headed for the knapsack and started digging once more.  “I-I’m authorized to use lethal force!” he wailed.  “Don’t make me bring out that crossbow again -- even though my aim is terrible, and probably even worse now that I’m all flustered and nervous.  Oh God, why did I come to school today?  I should have just taken off…oh, but then my perfect record would have been --”

“Arjuna.”  Lloyd held out a hand; even though the president had no intention of shaking it (or even looking at it), it at least got him to calm down a millionth of a degree.  “I’ll make my business clear here and now.  I’ve no intention of harming you, or anyone in this school; if anything, I hope to repair the damage caused to it by yesterday’s frivolities.”

Arjuna sniffled a little, and peeked over his shoulder. 

“If what I’ve heard is true, you have a wealth of the school’s information recorded, filed, and even memorized.  If that’s the case, then I’m hoping you’ll lend me a bit of the information I need.”

“…What kind of information?”

“I need to find out where two students and one teacher live.  My intent is to make a visit, aid them as best I can, and have them reinstated as members of the L. Bernstein family soon enough.   That’s all.”  He glanced aside.  “Well, technically my intent is to take steps forward in creating my own everlasting, borderless harem, but semantics aside all I need from you are a few addresses.” 

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”  He laughed nervously.  “For now; between the two of us, you ARE quite a bit smarter.  And knowledgeable.  And reasonable.”

A biting laugh came from somewhere in the room, but Arjuna ignored it.  He just climbed to his feet -- slumped and fidgeting, but at the very least capable of looking at Lloyd without hyperventilating.  “Wh-whose addresses do you need?”

“If you could give me the addresses of Sheila O’Leary, along with --”

Arjuna’s eyes looked a second away from popping.  “Sheila O’Leary?  You’re serious?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?  If not for my bumbling, she might be having a ball here on school grounds as we speak.”  Lloyd raised an eyebrow.  “Is there something wrong?”

The president shook his head, and chomped down on his thumb in a bid to stop his teeth from chattering.  It didn’t help.  “Sheila O’Leary…Lloyd, if you’re planning on seeing her, then you’ve gotta be careful.  That girl’s more dangerous than you’ll ever be.”

“That much is obvious, isn’t it?”

“I’m not just talking about those -- h-her.  What I mean is…” His eyes darted across the room, and he looked like he’d just stumbled into the bad part of town.  “How do I say this?  Sheila is…she’s…”

Ka-DRAMATIC INTERRUPTION!

One of the windows shattered, then a second, then a third; heavy boots kicked each pane of glass inward, and as they swung into the room they turned the fallen shards into dust.  Six boots -- two for each entrant into the council room.  Each entrant, decked out in army fatigues and camo, black trench coats and plated gloves.  Each entrant, drawing themselves to their full height almost in tandem -- and each one of them covered their faces with serpentine masks.

“Lloyd B. Hoigleheimer,” the snake-faced one in the center announced.  “Found you at last.”

Arjuna snapped his head toward Lloyd, who buckled at the sound of his name.  “Oh.  I guess I am trouble after all.”  He smiled nervously.  “Fancy that.”

TO BE HEARTINUED…


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